Canada is becoming the new Tangra: The Westin chef Ho Chi Ming who hails from Kolkata

Canada is the second Punjab is a fact well-known and agreed to because of the Punjabi and Sikh diaspora. However, Punjab is not the only region that has made Canada its home. A little Tangra (a region in East Kolkata that housed tanneries owned by people of Hakka Chinese origin) is emerging in Canada. Chef Ho Chi Ming of The Westin Pune Koregaon Park says that the Chinese community living in Kolkata groom their children to take up chef jobs in Canada. 

“When the Chinese migrated to India (Kolkata), there were 3-4 professions that they were involved in. These included tanneries, carpentry, dentistry and making Chinese food. They infused Indian flavours in Chinese food, giving birth to the Indo-Chinese cuisine which was spicier with a lot of flavours (especially ginger-garlic), as opposed to the original Chinese taste which was bland,” he said. 

However, Ho Chi Ming believes that young Indo-Chinese like him are rejecting the idea of Canada and embracing living in India. “We would love to go to Canada for a vacation but want to work here.”

Chef Ho Chi Ming comes from Park Street in Kolkata and grew up learning to cook in a strict household, where he started by learning how to cut, chop, flip and fry eggs. “I have many relatives in Tangra but I’m the first-generation chef.” 

He says the way they eat at home is in stark contrast to the Indo-Chinese food they prepare and sell in Kolkata. “We don’t eat chilli chicken but our food includes sauteed chicken, soup, steamed fish and cooked with only sesame oil, a bit of ginger and soya.” He says the Indian Chinese popularised by the Chinese diaspora has a lot of flavours and touches every profile of the palette. “Manchurian is the most flavourful of them all,” he added.  

In Gurugram for a 9-day food pop-up at The Westin ‘Tales of Tangra’, the chef who curated the menu, says that the pop-up offered a tantalising journey through the flavours of Tangra, the Chinatown of Kolkata. 

Tales-of-Tangra

Tangra traces its roots back to the early 20th century when Chinese immigrants settled in Kolkata, blending their traditions with Indian culture to create a unique Chinatown known for its rich history and culinary prowess. Today, its streets still resonate with echoes of the past, preserving a heritage that continues to thrive in the heart of the city.

The Tangra cuisine included hakka noodles, scallion crepes, homestyle taro cakes, kari fish dumplings, sweet & sour prawns, braised pork belly, four-season green beans, crispy chilli and more. 

With over two decades of experience as a chef, he says that he grew up having chilly chicken, sweet corn soup, and spring rolls on the streets of Tangra but now the street food there finds influences of Singapore and Hong Kong as well.